Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Student A.D. in Tennessee

A.D. (right) at Sachsen Cave Shelter.
This summer I participated in a three-week excavation at Sachsen Cave Shelter, Upper Cumberland Plateau, TN. The site dates to the Middle Archaic to Middle Woodland period. Every morning the other students and I drove to the area, hiked a short distance to the site and helped set up the transit. There were a total of twenty-four 1x1 meter units, eight of which were opened this summer. We dug down in 1 cm increments, and each layer was 10 cm. The unit my partner and I excavated was very productive: we found two nutting stones, five whole bifaces, seven halves of bifaces, many bones including a beaver mandible and a deer jaw, several pieces of turtle shell, several pieces of cord marked pottery, and two pieces of steatite.

I think the most interesting aspect of an excavation is finding an artifact, plotting it and cleaning it. Whenever I find an artifact, I know that artifact will either support or oppose my hypothesis regarding the site. Most of the time the artifact will provide evidence to support hypotheses; however, occasionally it will help to disprove hypotheses. For example, while I was digging in the Middle Archaic layer of soil, I found a piece of pottery. Previously, it had been though that people in this period did not have pottery because no pottery has ever been found dating to that period. The piece that I found was 4 cm away from a very small looter’s pit; however, it is unlikely the pottery came from the pit because the pit disappeared in the next 1 cm layer and the pottery was too far from the pit to have been part of that layer.

A.D. is a junior Archaeology major at UE.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alumna Profile: Julie C. ('07) in California

At UE, my passion for historical interpretation and the protection of historic sites and collections was solidified. After graduating in 2007, I spent a summer interning with the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum in London. I was a member of the “Etton Registration Project” team, which was charged with cataloging a decade’s worth of archaeological material from the prehistoric site of Etton, UK. In addition to photographing, sorting and storing human and animal remains, as well as more flint than one can possibly imagine, I was allowed rare access to the museum’s largest storage facility, Blythe House, which it shares with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum. For instance, I saw the Vindolanda tablets up close, I learned the BM’s newest conservation methods for textiles and Iron Age artifacts, and I witnessed the restoration of Egyptian temple reliefs. I cannot even mention some of the stuff they have locked away in the basement!

Julie in the gardens at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, UK

It was a few tube stops away at the Victoria and Albert Museum that I developed a new, but deep appreciation for the art of South Asia, particularly the religious art of India. After doing a bit of research and, ironically, just walking a few blocks away from the British Museum, I discovered the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London. It was there in the fall of 2008 that I began my MA in the History of Art and Archaeology specializing in the art of South Asia. In my Master’s dissertation I was able to merge my love for the city of London and my interest in Hindu art by examining how modern British Hindus have had to adapt urban secular spaces to become temples for lack of space and creative license due to cultural and governmental controls. The centerpiece of my study was Bhaktivedanta Manor, a Tudor-style manor house on the outskirts of London that devotees have converted into a temple with multiple shrines both inside and on the grounds. It was gifted to the Hare Krishna movement by George Harrison, which I like to think made my dissertation a tad bit more rock ‘n’ roll than the rest!

California Oil Museum, Santa Paula, CA

Today, I am the Assistant Museum Educator at the California Oil Museum in Santa Paula, CA (follow us on Facebook!). As assistant to the museum’s director, I am responsible for creating marketing materials, such as press releases and posters, installing exhibitions whose contents range from fossils to paintings, and ensuring the day-to-day running of the museum. As assistant educator, I give tours to the public and to school groups and am currently developing new activities for students that meet state curriculum standards while utilizing the history of our building, the second story of which retains its appearance and contents from the late 19th century. On the weekends, I am a docent at the Malibu Lagoon Museum and Adamson House in Malibu, CA where I guide visitors through a 1930s-era Spanish Colonial Revival-style beach house and also get to enjoy a wonderful view of the ocean! My degree in archaeology and art history from UE has allowed me to view some rare and spectacular sights/sites and has definitely imbued in me a unique way of looking at the world. I cannot wait to see where it takes me next!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Alumnus Profile: Andrew M. ('06) in Tallahassee

After graduating from UE in the spring of 2006, I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to earn an MA in Anthropology, specializing in Professional Archaeology. I chose to attend UNL so that I could learn more about conflict (battlefield) archaeology and gain some experience in that subfield. I did my master’s thesis on an artillery shell scatter from a frontier military post site in western Nebraska dating to the mid-1860s. As part of my thesis data collection, I also assisted my thesis advisor and a member of my thesis committee in the survey of several other battlefield or military associated sites dating to the same period in western Nebraska. While I was at Nebraska I also worked part-time as a teaching assistant for two semesters and as an archaeological technician with the National Park Service’s Midwest Archeological Center for a year. During that year, I assisted in the excavation of test units at several prehistoric sites at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to help determine their eligibility for the National Register and also completed several site assessments. When I was not in the field, I was working in the MWAC lab cleaning, identifying, labeling, and storing artifacts that we collected.

After graduating from UNL in December of 2008, I took some time off and worked on co-authoring an article with a member of my thesis committee regarding the history and projected future of conflict archaeology. I also married a fellow UE alum, Hillary C. (’07), during this time. In October of 2009, I started working for R. Christopher Goodwin and Assoc. out of New Orleans as a second tier archaeologist doing archaeology across the southeast. I am currently nearing the end of my first year with this company and have worked in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida completing all phases of archaeological work on both historic and prehistoric sites that will be affected by construction.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Alumnus Profile: Nathan E. ('02) at Yale

I graduated from UE with a degree in Archaeology and Classical Studies in 2002. After that, I received my M.A. in the City of Rome program at the University of Reading in 2003 and then immediately returned to the United States to study Greek and Roman Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri. I defended my Ph.D. dissertation there in September 2010. Presently, I am a postdoctoral associate at the Yale University Art Gallery and also a lecturer in the Department of Classics at Yale College for the 2010 fall semester.

It was only after I left UE that I realized UE’s archaeology program – one of the few in the nation – is so solid and well-respected. In the M.A. program on Roman topography at Reading, I was the only student with any background in archaeology; it gave me a strong advantage since I was already familiar with specialist vocabulary and many of the city’s monuments. During my first week in the University of Missouri’s doctoral program in the Department of Art History and Archaeology, I met another student in the program who was a UE alumna. Later, one of the professors remarked to me that they always found UE students well-prepared for the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in archaeology.

Undergraduate education is an important formative period in anyone’s life. My teachers and experiences at UE helped to prepare me for opportunities that have come my way since. In addition to the small classroom sizes, which fostered instructor-student interactions and spurred critical discussions in seminar settings, I was able to develop close professional relationships with my teachers. Prof. Steven Tuck, now at Miami University, and Prof. Patrick Thomas were my advisors. Outside of the classroom, they always counseled me on my career ambitions and provided me with strategies to meet those goals.

I owe much to UE’s high educational standards and particularly its focus on quality liberal arts education. Virtually every one of my courses demanded at least one paper of 15-20 pages in length. This emphasis on writing and independent research elicits critical and independent thought. Furthermore, Prof. Thomas and Prof. Tuck often encouraged me to pursue my own research interests in my term papers and to present findings at undergraduate research conferences. These experiences and freedoms no doubt prepared me with the basic tools to begin publishing peer-reviewed research.

After I finished my doctoral coursework in October 2006, I immediately traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to begin dissertation research, supported by a DAAD research grant. The institute at which I was based invited me to return as a waged employee after the grant expired; I worked there until I took up my present position in fall 2009. In Germany too, my experiences at UE proved to be invaluable. My advisors stressed to me that, although I had studied French as my requisite modern language, German was essential for advanced research and education in Greek and Roman archaeology. Therefore, I studied German for two years while at UE. I passed my doctoral reading exams in German relatively easily and had a foundation to improve my working knowledge of the language while living in Germany.

UE’s educational environment, which promotes critical thought, independent learning, and peer-teacher interactions, is its greatest strength. This tight-knight community of students and teachers mirrors what one finds in graduate programs and so the transition from UE to postgraduate education was, for me, relatively painless.

UE has a strong sense of academy and community; I still correspond regularly with my former teachers and the friends I made at UE.